[The NYTimes] Hong Kong Protests, One Year Later

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https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/world/asia/hong-kong-protests-one-year-later.html

The city’s worst political crisis in decades began in earnest with a mass march on June 9, 2019. Here is a look at some of the pro-democracy campaign’s key moments.


One year ago on Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong gathered for a march that became the start of the semiautonomous Chinese city’s biggest political crisis and the broadest expression of public anger with Beijing in decades.

In the months that followed, protesters filled the city’s streets, broke into the local legislature and vandalized it, staged sit-ins at the airport, and turned a university campus into a fiery battleground. Earlier this year, the demonstrations quieted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But Beijing’s push to impose national security laws over the territory has prompted some protesters to return to the streets. It is a reminder that many thorny issues — including the demonstrators’ demands for greater official accountability — remain unresolved. Here is a look at how we got here.

Crowding the streets

Organizers estimate that a million people marched on June 9, 2019, against a proposed law allowing extraditions to mainland China. The rally was mostly peaceful, though some protesters and police officers clashed after midnight. Three days later, the police fired tear gas at protesters who had blocked a major highway outside the local legislature. The heavy-handed response prompted another June march that organizers said drew nearly two million people.


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Hundreds of thousands protested a contentious extradition law on June 9 last year.


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Demonstrators at the June 12 protest said they were dismayed that tear gas was used against them.

Crashing the legislature

On July 1, hundreds of thousands of people marched to denounce police brutality and Beijing’s growing influence over the city on the 22nd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. A group of demonstrators also smashed their way into the local legislature using metal bars and makeshift battering rams. That confrontation reflected a wider attempt by the protest movement to target symbols of authority, including local police stations and the Chinese government’s liaison office in the city.


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In a turning point for the movement, antigovernment protesters stormed the legislature on July 1.


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Protesters occupied and vandalized the Legislative Council building.

Clashing with the police
Street clashes between black-clad protesters and the police became routine. Increasingly, protesters coordinated their actions on the fly using encrypted messaging — an effort to evade the police and new restrictions on public gatherings. Some began carrying makeshift weapons, attacking opponents on the streets and vandalizing businesses seen as supporting the police and the government. A slogan from the movie series “The Hunger Games” — “If we burn, you burn with us” — became a call to arms.


The police fired tear gas during a clash with protesters at Yuen Long, a border district, on July 27.


The police fired tear gas during a clash with protesters at Yuen Long, a border district, on July 27.

Protesters and police officers in the Sha Tin neighborhood on July 14.


Protesters and police officers in the Sha Tin neighborhood on July 14.

Getting attacked by a mob
On July 21, after protesters vandalized Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, a mob attacked a group of protesters in a train station. Dozens were injured, including journalists and a pro-democracy legislator. The appearance of police inaction that night would fuel widespread anger toward the Hong Kong police force, and suspicion that officers were unwilling to protect antigovernment protesters.


Some protesters became targets when a mob attacked them at a train station on July 21.


Some protesters became targets when a mob attacked them at a train station on July 21.

Calvin So, a cook, said he was walking near a protest in the district of Yuen Long when he was attacked by a mob.


Calvin So, a cook, said he was walking near a protest in the district of Yuen Long when he was attacked by a mob.

Shutting down the airport
By August, Hong Kong’s sleek and efficient airport was the center of protesters’ focus. First there were days of sit-ins by demonstrators who wanted to voice their complaints to some of the tens of thousands of travelers who move through the airport each day. The protesters then blocked some travelers, snarling flights and causing hundreds of cancellations. After protesters attacked two men from mainland China, the airport obtained a court injunction barring access to its terminals to anyone expect employees and travelers bearing flight tickets.



Protesters staged a sit-in at the airport in Hong Kong on Aug. 12.


Protesters staged a sit-in at the airport in Hong Kong on Aug. 12.

Protesters and the police clashed at the airport on Aug. 13.


Protesters and the police clashed at the airport on Aug. 13
 

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Firing at protesters

While Beijing marked the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1 with a military parade, protesters in Hong Kong held widespread demonstrations that turned violent. An officer fired a live round that hit an 18-year-old who, according to video, appeared to hit the officer with a pipe. The teenager was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment. Days later, the Hong Kong government used emergency powers to ban face masks at protests, a move that was scaled back in a series of court rulings.

Protesters engulfed in tear gas during a clash with the police in Hong Kong on Oct. 1, China’s National Day.

Protesters engulfed in tear gas during a clash with the police in Hong Kong on Oct. 1, China’s National Day.

Riot police officers in the district of Wong Tai Sin on Oct. 1.

Riot police officers in the district of Wong Tai Sin on Oct. 1.

Taking universities by storm

In some of the most dramatic moments of the protest movement, university campuses became focal points of unrest in November after a student demonstrator died in a fall from a parking garage during a police operation. Protesters occupied the Chinese University of Hong Kong for five days. Activists in and around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University fought off the police by hurling Molotov cocktails and launching arrows from bows. The police later arrested hundreds of protesters after a lengthy siege.


Protesters threw firebombs at the police from behind barricades at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Nov. 17.

Protesters threw firebombs at the police from behind barricades at Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Nov. 17.

Winning an election

The protest movement earned a stunning victory in late November as pro-democracy candidates captured most of the seats in local elections for district councils, one of the lowest elected offices in the city. It was a vivid expression of the city’s aspirations and its anger with the Chinese government, and the protests subsided for several weeks after that. On New Year’s Day, demonstrators returned to the streets in full force in a protest that started peacefully but descended into violent clashes with the police.

Democracy supporters celebrating in Hong Kong on Nov. 25.

Democracy supporters celebrating in Hong Kong on Nov. 25.

The police rounded up several dozen people in the Causeway Bay area on Jan. 1.

The police rounded up several dozen people in the Causeway Bay area on Jan. 1.

Pausing for a pandemic

Early this year, after the coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan and spread around the world, the protests eased as residents stayed home and social-distancing rules were imposed. But demonstrators pressured the government in other ways, notably through a union of hospital employees who went on strike to force the government to slow travel from mainland China to lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The area of Tsim Sha Tsui, the site of several protests in 2019.

The area of Tsim Sha Tsui, the site of several protests in 2019.

The Hong Kong airport, nearly empty on March 20.

The Hong Kong airport, nearly empty on March 20.



Facing new scrutiny
Lunchtime rallies re-emerged this spring, though on a much smaller scale than the protests by office workers and others that brought traffic to a halt in key business districts last year. Last month, protesters took to the streets to vent their anger over Beijing’s plan to impose new national security laws and a bill in front of the local legislature that would ban the disrespect of China’s national anthem. The police, who have taken a more aggressive approach to clamping down on protests after a new commissioner was installed last year, arrested at least 180 people.

Riot police officers are moving more quickly to stop protests like this one in the Causeway Bay area on May 24.

Riot police officers are moving more quickly to stop protests like this one in the Causeway Bay area on May 24.


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The police fired pepper balls in Central on May 27.

Defying a ban

Hong Kong has long hosted the only large-scale remembrance on Chinese soil of the Chinese military’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Last year, in a reflection of the growing concern in the city over the proposed extradition law, organizers said more than 180,000 people attended the vigil. This year, the police banned the event for the first time in 30 years, citing the epidemic risk, but thousands of people defied the authorities and gathered in districts across the city.


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Hong Kong residents flouted a police ban as they gathered in Victoria Park on Thursday.


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A candlelight vigil outside Victoria Park on Thursday.
 
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